Inspired by the philosophy of Wittgenstein and his idea that the purpose of real philosophical thinking is not to discover something new, but to show in a strikingly different light what is already there, this book provides philosophical readings of a number of ‘arthouse’ and Hollywood films. Each chapter contains a discussion of two films—one explored in greater detail and the other analyzed as a minor key which reveals the possibility for the book's ideas to be applied across different films, registers, and genres. The readings are not only interpretive, but they offer a way of thinking and feeling about, with, and through films which is genuinely transformative. Rupert Read’s main contention is that certain films can bring about a change in how we see the world. He advocates an ecological approach to film-philosophy analysis, arguing that film can re-shape the viewer’s relationship to the environment and other living beings. The transformative 'wake-up call' of these films is enlightenment in its true sense. The result is a book that ambitiously aims to change, though film, how we think of ourselves and our place in the world, at a time when such change is more needed than ever before.
"Rupert Read is one of the most significant environmental philosophers alive. He is changing the way people think about and talk about the catastrophe of anthropogenic climate change. Any thinking person who cares about non-human animals or about our ecological crisis—and that means any thinking person—will want to read this book. Read has here applied his unique and highly-acclaimed reinterpretation of Wittgenstein to help us to better understand some of the most important films ever made as well as theveryactivity and meaning of film criticism and interpretation. He does this in a thoroughly accessible and engaging way. This book will change—and enrich—the way you see, think about, and talk about films, and the world they screen for us." – Gary Francione, Board of Governors Distinguished Professor of Law and Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Scholar of Law and Philosophy, Rutgers University, USA
"In his superb new book on film and philosophy—on film as philosophy—Rupert Read takes double inspiration from Ludwig Wittgenstein: from the latter’s advice, "Don’t think, but look!"—but equally from the subtle and sustained thinking that led Wittgenstein to that carefully considered conclusion. Here Rupert Read discusses a wide range of movies, from crowd-pleasers like The Lord of the Rings trilogy to esoteric masterpieces like Hiroshima mon Amour and Melancholia. In so doing, he offers a profound meditation on the possibilities of film, one that does justice to the potential scope of its philosophical ambitions but also to the profundities, both dark and glistening, of its surfaces." – Professor Louis Sass, author of "Madness and Modernism" and of "The Paradoxes of Delusion: Wittgenstein, Schreber and the Schizophrenic Mind"
Introduction: Film as Freedom: The Meaning of Film as Philosophy
1. Implicating the Narrator, Implicating the Audience: Waltz with Bashir and Apocalypto
2. How to Represent a Past We Would Rather Forget: Hiroshima Mon Amour and Last Year at Marienbad
3. Learning from Conceptually Impossible Versions of Our World: Never Let Me Go and The Road
4. When Melancholia is Exactly What is Called For: Melancholia and Solaris
5. Gravity’s arc; or Gravity: A Space Odyssey
6. The Fantasy of Absolute Safety through Absolute Power: The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Avatar
Conclusion: What have we learnt?